Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fire, Tragedy, and God's Shining Grace

On Monday, September 5, 2011, Labor Day, we found out there was a fire in Bastrop Texas. Quentin and I were sitting on the front porch enjoying our coffee and the weather. Jason, a friend, who lives in Bastrop posted on Facebook that they would be setting up grills to feed hamburgers to people who were displaced by the fire. Jason and his wife were evacuated from their house on Sunday night due to the fire.

I told Quentin, "I am going to Bastrop to help." He and the girls decided to go with me. We took two separate cars so that he could come back early since he had work the next day.

We drove to Bastrop. When we arrived Jason was starting to get organized in the Sears parking lot. He asked me, "Have you ever done anything like this before?"

I said, "No."

He said, "Me either."

Well God had his hand in the whole thing. Bottled water started arriving. Frozen hamburgers started arriving. Condiments started arriving. Hamburger buns started arriving.

Sears provided freezers to store the hamburgers and refrigerators to store the other perishables. Sears also provided a grill for cooking. Numerous people showed up with grills. People began showing up to cook. We set up an assembly line to make hamburgers and pack large trays to be delivered to the workers. People came to take the hamburgers to the fire workers. Evacuees came to eat. It was an amazing site. People rising up in a terrible situation to serve the needs of others that were suffering. This is a picture of the smoke from the fire Monday afternoon.  

In the late afternoon, we headed back to Fredericksburg. On Tuesday, Quentin went to work. The girls went to school. I started cleaning the tops of my cabinets. Time to get rid of some stuff I had been hanging on to for years, but did not really need. Then the phone call came.

My friend, Shelly called. She was crying. "Beth', she said, "the house is gone. Phil was able to get into our neighborhood and everything is gone."

I said, "Do you want me to come?"

She said, "Please."

I got off the phone. I was stunned. Cody and Shelly had been out of town for her aunt's funeral. They literally had only the things they had taken with them for the weekend. So I started organizing some things to take. Two pillows for Cody. A set of towels. Of course all of the nice towels were dirty. A light weight blanket. A large quilt for Cody. A small quilt for Shelly. Shelly was enamored with a quilt I had entered in our local fair a few years ago. It had won "Grand Champion". That quilt had Shelly's name all over it!! I also grabbed two air mattresses and an air pump. Then I got some plastic plates (30) and plastic cups (25) to give to some other friends who had 4 families staying with them. The plastic dishes were reusable and would save money for paper goods.

I sent a text to Quentin, Avery, Ashlyn, and my good friend, Valerie to update them on the situation.

The phone rang again. Shelly wanted me to bring Ashlyn, our youngest daughter. I took a shower, loaded the car and headed to the high school. I got Ashlyn out of class. She had not gotten my text and thought I was there to drop off some homework she had forgotten. I told her the news and she started to cry.

We headed to Bastrop. We were in contact with Cody and Shelly throughout the drive. They were also heading back to Bastrop. They stopped to get face masks. They stopped to get some food. We drove. Shelly called while we were enroute to say that her dad had found a bone marrow donor. Imagine in the midst of all this devastation, God provided. Her dad had been diagnosed with Leukemia in May of this year.

We arrived in Bastrop before Cody and Shelly. We were standing in the Sears parking lot when they arrived. We hugged and then went to talk to the volunteers who were still preparing food. Again God is working. A friend walked up and offered Cody and Shelly a place to stay in Bastrop. The people who had been staying with them due to the fire had moved to a hotel. Cody and Shelly accepted the offer and planned to go over in the evening.

Cody wanted to drive as close to the house as we could get. We loaded up in the car and headed that way. We were not able to get close. All of the roads were blocked off. We went to Wal-Mart to get a few things. We went to Starbucks to sit and talk. Eventually we went to dinner and ate together. We laughed, we cried, we shared. Our bond of friendship grew.

It was now late evening. Phil had told Cody and Shelly that he had taken pictures of what was left of the their house. Cody and Shelly wanted to see the pictures. So after we finished dinner we went to Phil and Casey's to see the images.

It was worse than I imagined. There was really nothing left. One partial wall remained. Phil had pictures of other houses too. So much devastation. Here is a picture of what remains of Cody and Shelly's house.

Cody and Shelly had good insurance and will be physically ok eventually. Emotionally they will probably struggle for a long time. They had both cars with them, so they did not lose their cars. A few days later they found a temporary place to live in Smithville and several friends provided furniture so they can get back to some sense of normalcy. They will rebuild their house. Shelly has gone back to work and will be a strong mentor for the middle school kids she teaches, since she knows exactly how they feel in their loss.

Here are some statistics from the fire:
Fire started September 4, 2011
34,068 acres burned
Resources to fight fire: 21 crews, 131 engines, 4 helicopters,
      8 water tenders, 9 dozers
1554 homes lost
Fire is still burning and is 70% contained

God has provided throughout this tragedy.
Randy Perkins, Shelly's dad will now get the bone marrow donation he has been desperately waiting for.
Over 6,000 hamburgers were served Monday and Tuesday alone.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was available in the Sears parking lot every day last week. 
Many people were left without homes, but the community has risen up to provide.
As far as I know only two people lost their lives.
Of 22 missing people late in the week, all of them have been located except two (not the same two listed above).
Friendships were forged and strengthened.
Local businesses rose up to provide for the community - Sears, HEB,

The effects of this fire will be long-lasting and long felt. I am so sorry for the lives lost. I am so thankful that a community of people in the midst of a huge tragedy can be the hands and feet of God. 


  1. Beth, this was beautiful. It made me cry. It was a very emotional day for us...an all time low of hearing of Shelly and Cody's loss to an all time high of receiving a donor for Randy's transplant. Thanks for always being there for SHelly and Cody. Love, Bitty

  2. I am so sorry for everything your family has been going through. Only God can sustain us and carry us through such hard times. I love Cody and Shelly. They are part of our family.